Alibaba wants to bring rural and urban China closer together by using what it believes are its strengths: data and logistics.
In some Chinese areas the rural and urban communities can be very separate, so the retail giant is launching a series of initiatives to bringing them together, both for commerce and community.
From an online shopping perspective, it’s allowing fresh produce from abroad to be purchased on Tmall for the first time. It’ll start selling items, such as cherries from Australia, online in time for China’s biggest festival. It will also promote fresh produce from rural areas of China, such as special meats, to those celebrating with family dinners in urban areas.
To encourage people to buy from rural areas it plans on using live broadcasts to help educate people about rural produce. Alibaba has selected 12 ‘village celebrities’ to host shows on the Tmall and Taobao apps about how the produce is processed.
One of the key aspects to Chinese New Year, which is celebrated across a number of days and therefore allows people to travel to see their families, is the reunion and reunion dinners. Alibaba will be creating a project in which users of Rural Taobao could win a family photo via its merchants to document the occasion.
Promoting the Rural Taobao platform is a key pillar to its Chinese New Year activity and another major effort will be a recruitment platform, to help people get jobs in more rural areas - and therefore closer to home.
The final part of the celebrations will be a special banquet of 6,000 people for the ‘forgotten’ elderly and children that are left in villages without big families to celebrate with.
Chinese New Year is a major event for Chinese digital platforms, not least because they have become an important way to transact the ‘red envelope’ monetary gifts that people give one another. Last year WeChat boasted more transactions over Chinese New Year than Paypal had in the whole year of 2015, and Alibaba’s Alipay is the most dominant platform for mobile payments in China.
However, Alibaba also has its sights set on its own festival 11.11 or ‘singles day’ , which has become a huge Chinese calendar event in its own right.
Chinese New Year takes place across the weekend of 27 and 28 January 2017.